The question here is not a matter of how or even why. The question here is not about motivation. The question here is: “What about Scriptures?” What do the Scriptures say about training our children up to truly love and follow their GOD and to honor their parents?
I have never been good with incentives in training our children. I used a chart with stickers once for a few months to help Eric when he was potty-training. That went ok. I have many times threatened that I was going to not allow this or that unless they earned so many credits or whatever you want to call them. I have toyed with the idea that that is a good motivation to get them to do things. But, the Scriptures always get in the way of that for us.
We are told to love YHVH- God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Children, additionally, are instructed to honour and obey their parents. It is the first commandment given with a promise attached to the obedience. IF they obey their parents, THEN they will live long on the earth and it may be well with them. Now, logically speaking, it makes sense that if you train up a child who obeys their parents, then they will have a loving and obedient heart and their lives will be better. They are likely to live longer, because they will be good citizens and functioning adults. However, we don’t even have to accept that that works out logically. We have a promise in the commandment. YHVH does not give his commandments or his promises lightly.
So, for our family, in reading the Scriptures, the questions come down to: “Where is your heart?” The Scriptures tell us that where your heart is turned toward, that is what you will consider your treasure. If I have to promise my son something that he can do or have to get him to do something I ask him, he is neither doing it out of love for His GOD nor his honouring of his dad or me. It is true that whatever he is motivated toward getting is what he is honouring. If he is motivated toward getting something for himself, am I training him to be selfish and put himself first?
On the other hand, if there is a standard that is set for him to meet and there are blessings that sometimes come because he has worked toward these standards of the heart and work around the home, does that not teach him to do all things to the glory of YHVH and to work honourably, of his own desire and volition to please GOD and his parents? Does this not train him to do what is expected of him, regardless of the rewards, knowing full well that his parents and ultimately YHVH are caring for him, loving him, and have his best interest at their hearts, regardless of what he “wants”?
What kind of an adult will this train the son into?
One thing that I read that Michael Pearl has made clear in his child-training books is this: Spoiled, disobedient children will learn to behave in a socially-acceptable manner. You will not often find a ten-year-old who will throw a full-blown tantrum in public. However, you will find a demanding, spoiled ten-year-old acting out his disobedient heart in many other ways. Perhaps it is an eye-roll. Or maybe a sigh. Or a foot-stomping. Whatever the outward response of rebellion is does not matter. The point is that it is an outward expression of disobedience, and this outward expression may change, but the inward disobedience is the same spirit that reigns in the heart of a two-year-old, a ten-year-old or a twenty-plus-year-old. It will not magically go away once they grow up.
NOW is the time to train our sons to know that there is a standard. This standard is set by YHVH, and we, as the representatives of YHVH- God are here to help him live by these standards. The commandments are for the good of our children. They are not to “keep them from having fun” or squelch their personalities. We are training up adults here, not boys. We are training up men. This is why the question,
“What kind of an adult will this train the son into?”
It is of utmost importance to know our own motivations and what we are training into our boys. Is our only goal to get them to obey and do something we want them to do? Is it to shape the heart? Is it to love themselves or their GOD? The goal is what will determine the training.
If we do not have any idea on what or how to train, I would not suggest going out and buying the latest and greatest new book on discipline. I agree with much of what some people give as methods of discipline, but the main book to use in all things in training up our children is one thing: Scripture. Only by learning and loving the Scriptures and commandments given to us to keep us as a set apart people will we as adults learn to live as we were created to and train up men and women who will do the same.
My suggestion, based on Scriptural principles of training our sons, would be to firmly teach your sons in the Scriptures. For your little guy, do not only default to a children’s Bible story. Get out the Scripture and read the passages yourself so you know the actual story. As your child grows and you read the children’s story of Noah, or David, or Jonah, add in the details of the story. Focus on the truth and meat of the story, not just the fluff that most books give to a child just so they get the basics. Know the truth of the stories well enough that when you read or watch a video that is inaccurate according to the truth of Scripture you can point it out to your son. Man writes these devotionals and makes the Bible videos. Many times, I have found, they are not accurate in their portrayal of Scriptures. We have told our children many times what is incorrect. We must correct it. We must hold Scriptures higher than man’s ability or knowledge, even if that means telling them their favourite video is not what the Scriptures say. (And be bold! Don’t continue to let them watch or read these things that are contrary to the truth of Scripture!)
Train them up to LOVE the Scriptures. Read to your child out of the Scriptures themselves. They do not have to view them as old, boring words for adults. In them is life for everyone. For all of your sons, start in the Old Testament. Build up a knowledge and a love of who our Creator and our GOD really is. Obviously, be discreet in some stories, but be sure to let them hear the pains that his people went through. Let them know that they are people and sinned and repented and were forgiven and never forsaken. Do not just teach them that accepting Jesus-Yehoshua as Messiah will give them the happiest and most fulfilling life they can have. They need a foundation with answers and real-life truths. Our Messiah lived with a base of the Scriptures – the Old Testament teachings and writings, as his foundation. What better foundation to give our sons than the one their Messiah had? That base is a firm understanding of YHVH- God and his plan for a people set apart and called unto him, trusting in him alone as their GOD and Father.
Do not think that because your son is twelve or fifteen that all is lost. Certainly, if he has been trained to put other things and himself first above honouring and obeying YHVH and his parents, there will be struggles. This will be a major shift in focus and intentions. It will be like ripping a weed out at the roots. Have you ever done that? There is a method to doing it so that all other things around it are not destroyed. The bad roots in our lives are often intertwined with other good things. We must be firm in our standings in the Scripture, but allow the Holy Spirit to use gentleness, love, peace, patience and self-control to lovingly teach our sons as these bad roots are weeded out of their lives.
Firstly, it must be done firmly, lovingly and rooted in Scriptural principles.We will have to brace ourselves in Scripture as if to hold the soil around the roots, so we don’t disturb everything when we pull it out. Sometimes, we will have to spend time sifting the dirt around the roots as the straggling pieces stay in the soil of his life. If rebellion has set in for those years, it will take prayer and a change of heart placed in your son by YHVH. It is not impossible. It is the calling and desire of our great Elohim-God, though, to have our sons’ hearts fully planted in him, and it is for us to allow that to happen, continuing in praying for and with our son as he himself starts to see his own heart in light of the Scriptures and commands of the GOD he wants to know and love.
It is a process for our older sons, just as it is for us. Have the Scriptural expectations, but give the grace to him that you yourself expect from YHVH as he disciplines your own sinfulness. See it as a partnership to learn and grow with your son as he learns and grows. We are not their taskmasters, but their mothers, and we love them and want them to become what they are created to be, not what we want them to be. Scripture and the Holy Spirit will lead him, and we are there to answer and guide where we are also led to by the Father who already has the best plan for our lives in place.
Training? Or bribing? You decide. In the end, it depends on what treasure you want their hearts to focus on. As for me and my house, I pray we can train them to love YHVH and to walk in his ways, not the ways of the world.